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UL Lafayette Research Center Gains New Partnership

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On September 27, the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Center for Visual and Decision Informatics announced a new partnership with Tieto-US, bringing the research center’s total industrial partnership to 22.

Tieto-Finland, headquartered in Espoo, Finland, provides information technology software and services to businesses and is already a member of the center’s advisory board, working directly with researchers at Tampere University of Technology.

According to Matti Vakkuri, head of technology and industrial internet for Tieto, the company has been looking to expand its reach into North America and will now work alongside University of Louisiana at Lafayette researchers.

“Tieto does a lot of work in the areas of energy, healthcare, maritime,” said Dr. Ramesh Kolluru, vice president for research, innovation and economic development at UL Lafayette. “If I were to pick just those three industries, those of us in Acadiana will know how strong of a play we have as a university, as a community, in those areas.”

Companies like Tieto, Intel, and CapitalOne utilize CVDI’s ability to not only gather “big data” but to analyze it and present it in a visual way.

First coined in 1997 by NASA scientists to describe visualization problems with computer graphics, the term “big data” has since evolved to mean giant datasets that can be analyzed to reveal patterns and make predictions, especially in relation to human behavior and interactions.

“For years, Tieto had the opportunity to observe UL Lafayette through the center,” stated Vakkuri, who also serves as CVDI’s Industry Advisory Board vice chairman, “but now after being able to see the results and progress of the research, we are convinced this is the right thing to do, to collaborate even more, and we think UL is a good partner for that.”

The new partnership could potentially bring more job prospects to the area, as well as new opportunities for university students who are looking to learn more about real world issues and how to solve them.

“It’s not just about research but about training students and training a workforce in a way that while there are still students, they get exposed to people like Matti,” said Dr. Vijay Raghavan, director of CVDI. “They get exposed to problems that the industries currently face, and then they can design their research projects around those kinds of things.”

The research center began in 2012 with two universities — UL Lafayette and Drexel University — and fewer than 10 organizations as part of its network.

Today, the center boasts a six-university collaboration with more-than-double the industrial partnership. As of February, NSF advanced the research center into its second phase, which means CVDI will receive another five years of funding.

“This is now the largest active National Science Foundation Center of its kind,” Kolluru said. “This is the first time in the history of the state that a Louisiana university has received such a recognition as a center of excellence, and we couldn’t be more proud that UL Lafayette has led us to that.”

Caption: Dr. Ramesh Kolluru, left, vice president for research, innovation and economic development, shakes hands with Matti Vakkuru, head of technology and industrial internet for Tieto, after the company officially signed as the newest partner for the center. (Credit: Jessica Manafi)